Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Six Years as a Blogger #BookBlogger #Blogging




Six years ago this week I pressed the 'publish' button on Random Things for the very first time. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing, or what would happen, or if anyone would read my ramblings.

Six years ago.  Six years in blogger land is a very long time, and I feel as though I've come a very long way.

Back then, I didn't really know any other bloggers.  I'd followed Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads for a few years, and Jackie from Farm Lane Books and enjoyed reading their bookish thoughts. A couple of my friends from an online book club took the plunge and started blogging, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I wasn't an active Twitter user and I wasn't sure how to get my reviews out there, but people did start to view the blog, and publishers began to contact me, and the books began to arrive, and they haven't stopped.

I love my blog. I love books, and reading and I love shouting about books. I love it when someone says that they've bought a book because they read my review. I love it when an author says that my review has made them happy. I love the way that whatever else is happening in the world, I can retreat into a land of make-believe and be soothed and healed.

Over the past couple of years the blogging world has expanded so much. Our community has grown, and new bloggers have appeared. People like me, who love books and want to tell other people about the books. I asked a question in Book Connectors on Facebook the other day, I wanted to know how long my fellow members had been blogging. It's fascinating to see just how many blogs have been started up in the past couple of years, and I was surprised that some of my favourite bloggers had only been around for a short time. People like Noelle at CrimeBookJunkie, and Jo Robertson at My Chestnut Reading Tree who are so well respected, and write fabulous reviews, it feels like they've been around for years. They are so so good.

Bloggers support each other. A couple of years ago it seemed really difficult to know where we could post our reviews, or connect with authors. Some Facebook groups had so many rules, it was frowned upon if we posted link to our blogs too often, and authors weren't allowed to promote their work. So I created Book Connectors on Facebook.  A private group for bloggers and authors; to connect, to share blog posts and book news; to arrange promotional posts; to chat about books and book-related issues. It's a fabulous place to be with over 1500 members; all blogger and/or authors. We don't have rules, we just exist, we are nice to each other and we support each other.

Sometimes though, it's not all quite so happy. Last month there was a spate of posts in another Facebook group which became known as 'Blogger Bashing'.  A couple of non-blogger readers decided that they didn't want to see 'serial bloggers' in their groups and implied that us bloggers were doing it for financial gain.

After much spluttering and laughter .... please do take a look at my bank account after a visit to Waterstone's, some of us tried to explain that no, we don't get paid, we do it because we love it. Yes, we do get a review copy of the book, but I can assure you that most bloggers will go on to buy a finished copy of the books that they review. Proof copies are great, but it's so good to have the finished article on the shelf. Whilst lots of non-blogger readers were happy to learn about blogger, there were a few that refused to believe us. Now, I believe that everyone is entitled to their personal view, but when that person states untruths, then they can be challenged. It wasn't just bloggers who tried to explain either, some really supportive authors did their best to explain how blogging worked too. But no, we were then accused of bullying ....

I took a little Facebook break. Personally, I feel that the word 'bully' can be used as a weapon. Once it's been uttered, or typed it can shut down a whole discussion. Nobody wants to be called a bully, mud sticks, and I actually think that labelling people as bullies can be seen as bullying in itself.

Oh, and then there is Twitter.  Oh, Twitter, how I love you. I am almost addicted to Twitter. I only really follow book people, so I don't see the fights and explosions that I hear about. Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins don't feature on my Twitter feed and I wouldn't know a TOWIE star if I fell over one.

New bloggers often ask for blogging tips and I always say 'Twitter is the best'!  Publishers and authors promote their books on Twitter all the time. They tweet tantalising pictures of new releases, and book trailers, and cover reveals. Often, publishers will shout out for bloggers and reviewers via Twitter. They have proofs, they want reviews, 'RT if you'd like a copy', they say, and we do, and we get a copy, and we review it, and we tweet the review ... it's the circle of Twitter.

Lots of bloggers and reviewers will tweet a photo of the books that arrive in the post. Commonly known as #bookpost.  #Bookpost is not a brag, it's a way of saying thanks to the publisher and the author, but it's also another way of getting the book noticed. Other readers will see the photo, it creates interest, and pre-orders, and conversations. It's great marketing. It's all about the book.

So, now I come to Twitter etiquette.  Yes, there is an unofficial code of conduct on Twitter. It's much the same as day to day life, it's about being polite and respectful.

Imagine the scene; you are in the office, or at a party, or out to lunch with a group of friends. One of your friends works for a firm that makes chocolate and gave you a sample of a new product. You say to the other friends 'look what X gave me, doesn't it look scrumptious?'  I hope that your friends would reply to you.  I hope that your friends would not ignore you, and then turn to your other friend and say 'Want', or 'I'd like some, do you have more?', or 'Oh, it's not fair, I really want to try that.'  Can you imagine??

It happens.  It happens on Twitter, all the time. There are lots of books and lots of proofs, and there are lots of bloggers and reviewers.  Some publicists are quite happy to send out proofs to anyone that asks for one, some don't. I don't really know how they choose; maybe it's based on the blogger's reviewing skills, or how many followers they have. Maybe they stick to the bloggers who they know will actually review the book, and shout about it. Maybe they want to send a few proofs out very early, with more nearer to publication date. Maybe the they will scan someone's feed to see if they interact with other bloggers and authors, and tweet about books. Every publicist has their own way of doing things.

So, here's the thing. I will continue to advise new bloggers to look to Twitter for books, but I do urge them to think about how they ask. Imagine you see a Tweet something like this:

@annecater    Wow! Great #bookpost today. A copy of #NewBook by @GreatAuthor - thanks very much @GreatPublisher.  

Underneath the Tweet there's an arrow. This is the 'respond to' button. When you press that you are responding to all of the people tagged in the Tweet, including the person who posted it. So, if you press the arrow and respond like this:

@annecater @GreatAuthor @GreatPublisher   Oh I want.                                                                     
 or like this:
@annecater @GreatAuthor @GreatPublisher   Hello, could I have a copy of this for my blog please? 

You have just ignored someone whilst responding to someone, and it's annoying, very very annoying. By all means, go ask for a copy of the book from the publisher, but please don't tag me into your request. I will respond. Maybe I shouldn't, but it's rude and it drives me crazy. When I respond, try to understand why I've responded. It's not because I don't want anyone else to have the book, that's crazy. If that were true, I wouldn't Tweet a photo of it. It's because you've responded to me, but ignored me.

Oh, and when you've got some books,  please do think twice before going to Twitter to complain that the publisher who sent you the books has now contacted you to ask if you are going to review it. That is THEIR JOB!!  They are not some sort of 'Book Santa' who sprinkles books around like fairy dust, they are doing their job. They have invested time and money in the book and the author and produced proof copies, otherwise known as review copies.  That's the point. Review copies.

Of course, most of us will devour the books, and we will review them. There are things to consider when posting the review too. Lots of publishers will send out very early copies of books, it's all about the marketing, it's about getting people noticing and talking about a book, way before it's published. Some publishers do welcome very early blog reviews, but I know that many of them would prefer that the actual review was posted much nearer to publication date. If you do receive a really early copy, it's worth checking with the publicist, and asking them when they'd ideally like to see blog reviews.

I know that some bloggers have blocked me. I know that some bloggers don't like it when I speak out.
Sadly, I know that some of those bloggers are people who are lovely to my face, but hey ho, this is how I feel.  I also know that some publishers hate this as much as I do, and they note it, and they remember it.

So, six years on, and although I've talked about the things that I dislike about blogging land, there is far far more that I love.

I love the fact that I've met some amazing people: bloggers, reviewers, authors and publishers. I've been to some fabulous events, in places that I'd never ever have been to otherwise.
My reviews have been quoted on real books; books that are sold in bookshops and supermarkets - my words, that I wrote, there is nothing quite like that feeling.
I'm part of a community who all love the same thing; the written word. I love that.
I've read books that I wouldn't have dreamt of picking up, and I've loved them.

Six years is a long time in blogging land but I fully intend to carry on for as long as people want me to read their books, and shout about their books.  I will continue to support and encourage new bloggers, and defend bloggers, and I will continue to respond when someone is rude to me.

Last week I read Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary, I folded down so many pages to remind me of some wonderfully written sentences; this one could have been written about me:

"Just remember I'm a Northerner. That means blunt speaking, no bollocks, but I can hand out hugs when I need to. Most days I'm having trouble holding them in."
Sarah Hilary ~ Quieter Than Killing     







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59 comments:

  1. What a brilliant work! 6 years is like being a dinosaur! I mean this in the nicest way possible hahaha! I just want to say I can only dream of keeping my blog alive for half this time! You have witnessed the change in the way things are done and the growing in the community. Also, as an active member and respected blogger, you have helped so many others, I am happy the bad sides are not putting you down and that the urge to scream your words about books is still going strong!
    I have only heard a little about the issues you mention and it makes me sad, but I guess every community has its problems.
    Happy six year blogiversary, here's to many more!
    ps: can I borrow this quote for myself? It's perfect!!

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  2. Thank you Donna, and yes, of course - it's a fabulous quote!
    A x

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  3. Many, many congratulations. I'm in awe of your commitment. I've only been going for three months so I've got some way to go to match you but, as you say, newbie or old hand, we're united by our love of books and desire to share that love with others.

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  4. Thank you Cathy, and good luck on your journey too x

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  5. Oh Anne, I love this. Tips are always great, I have been around for about 6 years too, I possibly got inspired by you, I know you certainly helped and help me, even now, along the way. Even doing it so long I still find I do things that possibly would be better another way and it is always nice to have support and a friendly voice offering that. I remember you helped my with my titles of my posts because I was adding codes in the title and didn't know that affects google searches. You always have so much to offer and happy to help, if people block you or worse are nice to your face and rude behind your back well that says more about them!

    Here is to many many more years wee lovey xxx

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  6. Congratulations on your six years, Anne. And on such an inspiring, heartfelt post (with great quotes!). Finally, a big thank you to all that you do for authors. It is hugely appreciated. Here's to another six years.

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  7. Great post Anne. That sums you up as does that quote. Ha ha. You are a blogger I love to follow. An inspiration. Stay just as you asked. X

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I hope to stay as me!

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  8. What a great post! I love it when people stand up for what they believe in! Congratulations on 6 years, I for one, am a massive fan of your reviews! Abbie Osborne :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments Abbie x

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  9. I am sorry that I missed your request asking how long people have been blogging. I have been doing it for 10 years now. That aside brilliant post. You have said all the things that are sometimes running through my brain but in a much nicer and thoughtful manner than I would have said.

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    1. I'm sure you would be very polite Ayo! Thanks for the support xx

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  10. As a fairly new author who now, occasionally, reviews books I like, may I say how I concur with everything you say. It takes time to create a well-written review; time & patience & attention to detail. (A bit like writing one!) My experience of bloggers is 100% joyful. You are amazing - you do this work for no reward other than the gift of a book & the pleasure you derive from reading. And thank you for #BookConnectors too, Anne - it's an inspirational group which has proved hugely supportive to me as a writer. xXx

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    1. You are a valued member of Book Connectors Carol, thank you x

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  11. Happy blog birthday Anne! Thank you for all the support via Book Connectors. Six years is one hell of an achievement and here's to the next six. Fab post as always xxx

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  12. As a publicist, can I just say THANK YOU <3 And many congrats on a great milestone.

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    1. Thank you, and all of the great publicists, we couldn't do it without you xx

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  13. Fabulous post, Anne! Happy 6th Anniversary and I hope you continue for many years to come - I love reading your blog x

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  14. Congratulations on your busy six years Anne and here's to many more in blogger land some great advice here about Twitter etiquette x

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  15. Fantastic post Anne and thank you for all the help yourself and Book Connectors have given to me as a new blogger. Long may you continue blogging you are an inspiration x

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  16. Congratulations on 6 years, Anne!

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    1. Thanks for the support Anita xx

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  17. "Some publicists are quite happy to send out proofs to anyone that asks for one, some don't. I don't really know how they choose..." Nor I, like the rest of us, they've probably got a massive workload and are struggling to keep up. It's easy to get paranoid when you're overlooked. Thanks for Book Connectors. It's a Very Good Thing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment William, I appreciate it x

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  18. Congratulations Anne and a brilliant post! I love your final quote- it really made me smile! I love how passionate you are about books and bloggers and really appreciate your support and encouragement- can't wait to follow you for the next 6 years (and 6 after that!!) xxx

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  19. Happy Anniversary Anne! Big thanks for all your wonderful support, conversation and reviews over the years - hope to see you again before too long :) x

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    1. Thank you Isabel, looking forward to catching up soon - maybe Harrogate?

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  20. Happy Blog Birthday Anne .. wonderful post, as always you are full of wise comments. I have personally picked up a few books that I would have skimmed over otherwise if it wasn't for you 'shouting' about them :) Keep up the good work, here in BC & Twitter etc xx

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments Ali xx

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  21. Congratulations Anne, as a fellow Northerner I appreciate your straightforward and say it how it is approach. Thanks for being an inspiration and showing us how it should be done. xx

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    1. Thanks Jill, that's very kind xx

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  22. CONGRATS!! Here's to 6 more years, Anne! March is a good month for bloggy birthdays I think, as my 15th year is on 16 March. woohoo!

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    1. Wow! 15 years! That's wonderful. Congratulations and thanks for commenting x

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  23. Sorry to hear about those problems with people who refuse to believe the truth. I don't know what happens with some people when they go on social media platforms - they seem to lose all sense of perspective and feel its ok to say anything.

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    1. I know, it's all very strange. Thanks for your comments

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  24. Good for you Anne! And many congratulations on the last 6 years x

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  25. As a new blogger, I'm so glad I've discovered your blog and I've enjoyed reading your reviews. If I ever join FB I'd love to be a part of your group!! Congrats on 6 years of blogging, what an accomplishment!

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    1. You'd be very welcome to join! Thanks for commenting x

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  26. Congratulations on your six year anniversary and thank you for such a wonderfully detailed, thoughtful and insightful post. I, too, love Twitter and don't follow any of the gossipy stuff either, but still see the odd spat of dreadful rudeness on there. It's a bit like road rage I think, people think they can hide behind the screen. The good folk always rise to the top though....
    Here's to another six years and thanks for your enormous commitment to the written word thus far!

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments x

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  27. Happy anniversary! I love your blog so much, and I always enjoy seeing your book post. I'm in awe that you've been doing this for six years! I'm sorry that you've had so much to deal with from people who don't understand what you do, or who are downright rude - I haven't been around on FB much recently and have missed what has happened. I hope you know there are loads of us around who think you're brilliant - you welcomed me into this blogging world so early on and made me feel supported and I will always be grateful for that. I had so much going on in my life at the time and your kindness did more than I will ever be able to say. Here's to the next six years and beyond! xx PS. I have to say how much I love the quote from Sarah Hilary - I'm a northerner too and it's exactly right. :)

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    1. Thank you Hayley. I love your blog, thank you for your comments xx

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  28. Happy blog birthday! I'm coming up to 6 years too. I have moaned on Twitter in the past about nagging PRs (usually not people at the publisher, but companies they use) but it's nearly always because they have sent me a book without asking me and then continued to ask when I'm going to get to it. It makes me feel quite anxious and it's not fair on me (or other bloggers). I have policies, I do not guarantee a review because I only realistically have 14 hours a week to spend on reading and blogging. I know they are usually only junior people doing what they are told but I'd really rather they didn't send me the books in the first place. And clearly this message isn't getting back to the people in charge. You'd be amazed at how hard it is to stop some people sending them! But most publicists are happy that I tweet and Instagram about the books and I'll get there in my own time.

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    1. I understand that. Unsolicited books arrive here all the time, but I've found some wonderful books amongst them. I guess all you can do is ignore, maybe they will get the message. Thanks for commenting x

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  29. This is fab. And Happy Birthday!! X

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    1. Thank you, I couldn't do it without the fabulous authors!

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  30. What a lovely, articulate piece. Well done for sticking with it - I'm such a fair weather blogger!

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  31. Six years is amazing! I'm coming up to three in May; I don't have a great deal of followers but it's nice when new people pop by. I know what you mean about lots of great, lovely new bloggers appearing, and it's lovely to interact and retweet and support each other (although I've recently tried to limit my time on Twitter because it's so easy to lose two hours!) My personal pet hate is bloggers who expect you to follow and retweet them, but they don't reciprocate, as they'd rather chat to authors - one particular blogger springs to mind! Can I ask - nowadays is it just books you get, or do you still get other "random things"? Cheers, Anne - and here's to six more!

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  32. Fabulous post-you put everything h so clearly. I love seeing your book news & book posts, you're definitely someone to look up to in the community. I also started blogging solo in march, it's obviously a good month to do so! Happy blogiversary! X

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